(AP) – There are definitely three things that Florida State and Miami have in common right now.
- Both are 7-0.
- Both are among the nation’s top 10 teams.
- Both are not being forthcoming about their disdain for the other side.
The third-ranked Seminoles will host the seventh-ranked Hurricanes on Saturday night in a matchup with national championship implications and one that – at least statistically – could be considered one of the most significant in the history of the storied rivalry.
Barring season openers, this will be only the ninth time that Florida State (7-0, 5-0 ACC) and Miami (7-0, 3-0) have met with both sides unbeaten.
“It’s just another game,” Miami receiver Stacy Coley said.
No, it’s not.
“We’re going to prepare the same,” Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston said.
No, they won’t.
The politically correct comments – so far, anyway – of the players involved notwithstanding, this is one of those games that will be overhyped when there’s no need for hype. They have waged some of college football’s all-time classic games, with upsets and blowouts and Wide Rights and Wide Lefts and dozens of eventual NFL players all involved in the rivalry, which has been somewhat one-sided in recent years.
Florida State has won the last three meetings by a combined 101-56 score, and oddsmakers Sunday set the Seminoles as an early 21-point favorite – a massive number against a ranked opponent, say nothing of that opponent being a seventh-ranked rival that’s still unbeaten past the midpoint of the season.
“Just need to keep marching on,” Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Another great opportunity.”
Florida State rolled past North Carolina State 49-17 last Saturday, while Miami needed two fourth-quarter touchdowns from Duke Johnson to rally past Wake Forest 24-21.
The Seminoles’ numbers have been staggering of late, winning their last three games by 63, 37 and 32 points, respectively. Miami, meanwhile, has trailed by double-digits in each of its last three games before rallying every time.
Style points? Florida State has the clear edge.
Then again, in this series, stats never seem to matter that much anyway.
“I mean, it’s why you come to UM,” a grinning Hurricanes linebacker Denzel Perryman said, after being begged last Saturday to say something – anything – about the Seminoles, when it was clear that many of his teammates weren’t willing to go down that path. “It’s a lot of fun. You’re competing with guys you played against in high school and Pop Warner, so it’s a lot of fun.”
Up in Tallahassee, players seemed to be a little freer with the fire-stoking words.
“Miami, we’re definitely going to be ready for them and we’re going to prepare well,” Seminoles safety Terrence Brooks said. “I can’t wait. It’s going to be a big stage and that’s what we all want.”
Oh, it’ll be a big stage, all right.
“That’s what I came here for … just the big games and the big-game atmosphere, playing football for Florida State,” said Winston, the Seminoles’ brilliant redshirt freshman who not only has his team in the national-title mix but has placed himself squarely in the Heisman Trophy conversation.
Winston’s 23 touchdown passes tie him for third-most in the nation. His touchdown percentage rate of 12.6 leads the nation. His yards per attempt, yards per completion and passer rating all rank No. 2 nationally.
“He’s beyond his years,” said Miami coach Al Golden, whose eyes widened a bit Monday when asked what impresses him about Winston’s game. “He’s talented. He’s mature with the football. Strong arm, can move his feet, can create from a bad situation and I just think he’s excellent. Regardless of his age or year in school, he’s excellent. He’s playing really well and they’re executing at a high level.”
Golden always talks about things like winning the week, keeping a bunker mentality, blocking out the external attention and remembering the process.
But even he knows that in a week like this, copious amounts of emotion will certainly enter the equation.
“I don’t think there’s any question we have to invest in this game emotionally,” Golden said. “I just think as coaches we don’t have to do as much this week, because it kind of sets itself up. … The rivalry, it stands by itself, to be honest with you.”
And to think, this might be the first of two meetings this season.
Win or lose this coming weekend, Florida State and Miami will still be on track for trips to the ACC championship game.
“They’re going to come with it,” Winston said. “And we’ve got to come with it, too.”
The Hurricanes are making no secret of the fact that at least slowing Winston down is an absolute priority for them this weekend.
“He’s a great player,” Miami linebacker Jimmy Gaines said. “He can make all the throws. He can make all the throws and you can really see he’s a competitor. He’s really a competitor, so I mean, it’s going to be a great challenge for us as a defense just to go against him and play against him. I’m excited for it.”
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